Multiple Intelligences Revisited
by Michael Berman
- 1

IQ Tests were developed by Binet early in the 20th century and were frequently used to assess the potential of children in schools until quite recently. Tests of this type, however, have now fallen into disrepute. All they test is linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence and this traditional definition of intelligence is now regarded as too narrow. We now know that 75% of teachers are sequential, analytical presenters but 70% of students do not actually learn this way! The educational psychologist most responsible for this change of attitude is Howard Gardner, the creator of the Multiple Intelligence Theory.

Gardner's work at the Boston University School of Medicine lead to the identification of eight criteria for the existence of intelligence types: potential isolation by brain damage, the existence of prodigies such as autistic savants, an identifiable set of core operations, a distinctive developmental history along with a definable set of expert end-state performances, an evolutionary history, support from experimental psychological tasks, support from psychometric findings, and susceptibility to an encoding symbol system. (The criteria are explained in detail in Gardner's "Frames of Mind" if you would like to read more about them).

Gardner originally identified seven intelligence types which satisfy the above criteria and our intelligence profiles consist of combinations of the different types: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal - the way we relate to others, and intrapersonal - our ability to self-evaluate. (Emotional Intelligence, the term popularised by Daniel Goleman, covers what Gardner refers to as interpersonal plus intrapersonal).

Gardner refers to Intelligences as potentials that will or will not be activated, depending upon the values of a particular culture, the opportunities available in that culture, and the personal decisions made by individuals and/or their families, schoolteachers, and others.

A student who believes that intelligence can be developed is likely to be persistent and adventurous. However, a learner who thinks that ability is fixed, is more likely to get upset when faced with failure as it can only be construed as evidence of inadequate ability. The fluid 'theory' of intelligence advocated by Gardner encourages students to stretch themselves.

In his book "Intelligence Reframed" Gardner adds Naturalist Intelligence, our talent for classifying and categorising, to the original Magnificent Seven. He also speculates on the possibility of their being both a spiritual intelligence and an existential intelligence but comes to no definite conclusions.

According to Danah Zohar, author of "Spiritual Intelligence The Ultimate Intelligence", SQ (Spiritual Intelligence) is what we use to develop our longing and capacity for meaning, vision and value. It facilitates a dialogue between reason and emotion, between mind and body. SQ allows us to integrate the intrapersonal and the interpersonal, to transcend the gap between self and other.

There is believed to be a built-in spiritual centre located among neural connections in the temporal lobes of the brain. On scans taken with positron emission topography these neural areas light up whenever research subjects are exposed to discussion of spiritual or religious topics. Neurobiologists have now dubbed the area of the temporal lobes concerned with religious or spiritual experience the 'God spot' or the 'God module'.

The brain's unitive experience emanates from synchronous 40 Hz neural oscillations that travel across the whole brain. According to Zohar, the 40 Hz oscillations are the neural basis of SQ, a third intelligence that places our actions and experience in a larger context of meaning and value, thus rendering them more effective. Everything possesses a degree of proto-consciousness but only certain special structures, like brains, have what is needed to generate full-blown consciousness. In this case, we conscious human beings have our roots at the origin of the universe itself. Our spiritual intelligence grounds us in the wider cosmos, and life has purpose and meaning within the larger context of cosmic evolutionary processes.

Peggy Ann Wright at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has studied a link between heightened temporal lobe activity and shamanistic experiences. These are soul journeys to distant realms of experience in order to communicate with spirits of the living and the dead, and to bring back healing advice. Wright's work has also shown that rhythmic drumming of the sort used in a vast range of spiritual rituals excites the temporal lobes and associated areas of the limbic system.

Guided visualisation can also be used to excite the temporal lobes and the process can be used in the classroom. In a similar way, every time you introduce a tale starting 'once upon a time', you are inviting your audience to transcend their linear concepts of time and space and so enter a light state of trance. Consequently, both guided imagery and story telling can be used in class to facilitate the development of SQ.

As well as there being a case for adding Spiritual Intelligence to Gardner's list, it can also be argued that there is a Metaphoric Intelligence. Dr Jeannette Littlemore, in a recent contribution to Humanizing Language Teaching (2001a), made a case for their being a 'Metaphoric Intelligence' (an ability to comprehend and produce novel metaphors) and suggested that this might bring a number of benefits to the language learning process. She claims to provide theoretical and empirical evidence showing that metaphoric intelligence does indeed meet Gardner's eight criteria for the existence of an intelligence type. However, Gardner himself makes no mention of Metaphoric Intelligence and it is still open to debate whether it exists or not. Moreover, a case can be made for what has been called metaphoric Intelligence having points in common with Zohar's 'Spiritual Intelligence', such as an ability to see a connection between diverse phenomena. Whether we view metaphoric intelligence as an acquired skill, or as a distinct intelligence, the fact remains that it is likely to have a number of useful applications in language learning. It should enrich language production and facilitate the comprehension of metaphoric expressions. It is therefore likely to contribute positively to an overall level of communicative competence.

Does the fact that we each have a unique profile mean that we should plan individual lessons for everyone in the class to take this into account? Clearly this would be impractical and the solution lies in including material designed to appeal to each of the types in every lesson we give. The table presented below lists classroom activities that cater for the different Intelligence types. However, this classification is clearly subjective and dependent on individual teaching styles. Moreover, it should also be pointed out that a number of the activities cater for more than one Intelligence type and could consequently be placed in more than one category:

Activities to develop the Intellligences

Linguistic Intelligence: group discussions and organized debates / reading / storytelling / completing worksheets / word building games / giving presentations and reports / producing summaries / journal writing / listening to lectures.

Logical-mathematical Intelligence: logic puzzles / problem solving activities / logical-sequential presentations / guided discovery / ordering, matching and gap fill activities / computer games / utilizing statistics to develop arguments / cultural comparisons and contrasts.

Visual/Spatial Intelligence: charts / graphs and diagrams / mind maps / peripherals / storyboards / videos / illustrating concepts and things / reading maps and interpreting directions.

Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence: Circle Dancing / Relaxation Exercises / Brain Gym / Craftwork / Flashcards / acting out an event or thing / cooperative or competitive games like classroom board races.

Musical Intelligence: Songs / Background Music / Jazz Chants / creating songs or jingles to summarize concepts or ideas.

Interpersonal Intelligence: Circle Time / group work / paired activities / brainstorming / peer teaching / questionnaires, surveys and polls / board games / interactive software programmes / team problem solving / simulations / group writing projects.

Intrapersonal Intelligence: project work / independent study and individual instruction / monitoring of own skills / researching and online activities / essay writing / learner diaries / personal goal setting / pole-bridging activities / reflective learning activities.

Naturalist Intelligence: classifying & categorizing activities / Background Music - in the form of sounds created in the natural world / hands-on learning / and taking nature walks or field trips.

Spiritual Intelligence: guided visualisation / storytelling / promoting reflective learning by asking 'Why?' or 'What if?' questions.

Metaphoric intelligence: the use of extended metaphors in debates / guesswork / 'think aloud' activities where the learners work out the meanings of metaphors together / activities using the internet, where the learners look up the word in google search images, find and choose a picture corresponding to its literal meaning and create a booklet containing these pictures, with the word in context, in its metaphorical sense typed underneath it (eg 'target', or 'bandwagon')

It is clear that unless we teach multi-modally and cater for all the intelligence types in each of our lessons, we will fail to reach all the learners in the group whichever approach to teaching we adopt. Another reason for teaching multi-modally is that with high levels of stimulus and challenge there are higher ratios of synapses (connections) to the neurons in the brain. This means more routes for higher order cognitive functioning. The optimal conditions for synaptic growth would include multiple complex connective challenges where, in learning, we are actively engaged in multi-sensory immersion experiences.

MI theory, according to Gardner, is an endorsement of three key propositions:

• We are not all the same.
• We do not all have the same kinds of minds.
• Education works most effectively if these differences are taken into account rather than denied or ignored.

He suggests that the challenge of the next millennium is whether we can make these differences central to teaching and learning or whether we will instead continue to treat everyone in a uniform way. Gardner proposes "individually configured education" - an education that takes individual differences seriously and crafts practices that serve different kinds of minds equally well. Hopefully this book will go some way towards promoting that state of affairs.

"Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself."

taken from "The Pilgrimage" by Paulo Coelho


Berman, Michael. 1998. A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom, Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing

Berman, Michael. 2001. ELT Through Multiple Intelligences. London: NetLearn

Berman, Michael. 2001. Intelligence Reframed for ELT London: The Golem Press

Gardner, Howard. 1983. Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, Howard. 1999. Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.

Goleman, Daniel. 1996. Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury

Littlemore, Jeanette. March 2001. An article in Humanising Language Teaching. Canterbury: Pilgrims

Zohar D. & Marshall I. 2000. Spiritual Intelligence The Ultimate Intelligence London: Bloomsbury


Michael Berman is currently a research student at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and working part-time as a teacher at Oxford House College in London. Publications include A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom and The Power of Metaphor for Crown House Publishing and The Shaman and the Storyteller for Superscript. Michael has been involved in TESOL for over thirty years and has given presentations at Conferences in Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the Ukraine.


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